Alessi Makes Serious Coffee

Alessi Neapolitan Coffee Maker – La Tavola di Babele

Another one of Alessi’s beautiful masterpieces of design and construction. It only makes a few small cups of delicious coffee and there are a lot of things to clean afterwards, but what a delightful shape and concept! Designed over eight years, and after many prototypes, by Riccardo Dalisi, and produced from 1987, it has a timeless design which could be from the 19thC, but looks completely fresh today.

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Alberto Alessi describes the project in ‘The Dream Factory’, Koenemann, 1998:

“His research into the Neapolitan Coffee Maker was the longest in our history: over the years it led to one book and over two hundred fully working prototypes in tin. Wearing a beret and clothes straight out of a neo-realist film, continuously turning over new ideas and trying out new ways of making things work, Dalisi has not been an easy person to manage, but this was a very important project for us indeed. It enabled us to open up our manufacturing world even more to the conceptual experience of the artisan, it taught us to dilute our certainties in a fragile and poetic light, which is so necessary when working on extremely deep-rooted household rituals”.

It is difficult to imagine an industrialist in any other company, in any other country, writing this!

The paperwork that comes with the pot also has some typically Italian descriptive writing:

“The Neapolitan coffee maker was designed by Riccardo Dalisi in the course of research into this method of making coffee. The research project lasted from 1979 to 1987 and was awarded with the XII Compasso d’Oro 1981 prize. Made of 18/10 stainless steel with “canaletto” walnut handle this coffee maker makes a unique coffee – very aromatic, and incomparable to any other. Furthermore it attempts to recover the calm ritual of a different way of making coffee – that of the venerable ‘machinetta a rovesciamento’, or reversable coffee maker. Invented in Naples (probably at the beginning of the nineteeenth century) the Neapolitan coffee maker, as it was called, was common throughout Italy in the first decade of the Twentieth Century.”

and

“….An authentic Neapolitan talks to his coffee-pot, with which he has an empathetic, sensual, emotional relationship. It is precisely this dialogue that Dalisi has decided to produce on an industrial scale….”.

Coffee in Italy is a very serious business!

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The ritual of using the contraption is as follows:

1. Fill the lower container (A – Caldaietta) with water, bringing the water level to 2.5cm below the small hole at the front.

2. Fill the top of the filter (B – Filtro) with coffee, ideally with hand-ground coffee made with the traditional wooden coffee grinder.

3. Close the filter with the micro-filter (C – Microfiltro).

4. Insert the filter into the Caldaietta

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5. Turn the coffee jug with spout (D – Caffettiera) upside down and fit it on to the Caldaietta.

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6. Place the whole assembly on to the stove.

7. When the water in the Caldaietta starts to boil a few drops will sputter from the small hole below the rim. At this point remove the coffee maker from the heat and turn it upside down. This starts the filtering process which lasts for approximately 9 minutes.

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8. You may serve the coffee with the Neapolitan coffee maker either assembled or just with the Caffettiera.  A separate lid is supplied for the top of the pot.

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After all that you deserve a good cup of coffee, which it certainly provides. There isn’t a lot more in the pot so you have the pleasure of starting the whole process all over again. Perfectly suited to the Italian Slow Food movement, and a lot more civilised than sticking a capsule into a plastic coffee-maker!

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